By Tanya Enberg
Their bodies are sculpted. They strut six-pack abs, strong forearms, seriously defined biceps and carry themselves with the kind of bursting pride you can't help but notice.
This well-cared for crop is none other than pro athletes, a select group adored by many, worshipped by some, and idolized by most because they've managed to land some of the coolest jobs around.
Yes, these larger-than-life heros simply can make us go ga-ga. And who can blame us? Seriously, what oozes sex appeal more than success, confidence and a buffed body to boot?
From our love affair with tennis stars Maria Sharapova and hunky Spaniard Rafael Nadal to our obsession with all-American boy footballer Tom Brady, sports stars boast a certain marketability that captures our attention. Soon, it's going to get even bigger and more captivating when sporting fans from across the globe tune in to watch the best of the best vying for gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, starting tomorrow.
But being great is only part of the allure of the athletic bunch.
Fact is, whether you're an Average Joe or a sports superstar like upcoming Olympian softball pitcher Jenny Finch, reaching one's personal physical best is irresistible in part because of the beaming confidence it can produce.
This is something Jacque Walters understands well.
About four years ago, the vice-president of Group Fitness for Extreme Fitness took up boxing, kicked beer and processed foods to the curb, and dropped 12 pounds in the process. Now the 47-year-old is in the best shape of her life and is competing against 20-somethings.
"Somebody who's fit, in addition to the aesthetics of their body, there's also the side that shows someone who's in control of their body," says Walters.
"(Physical fitness) reflects how you see yourself and how others see you. I am not talking about Hollywood -- big boobs, fake smiles and booty -- this is a different kind of sexy."
According to the Association for Canadian Studies, a whopping 48% of Canadian adults are overweight and almost 15% are obese, but while our waistlines may be expanding, it's never too late to make a change, Walters stresses.
"Just because you're 20, 30, 40 ... the game's not over," she says.
"Our bodies are incredible machines but we tend to take better care of our cars -- we take them in to the shop to get serviced, yet we don't eat and fuel our bodies right. Athletes service their bodies and that takes a lot of work. Our society is all about the quick and easy fix from fast food to botox but there is no quick and easy way to get in shape. Wouldn't we all be walking around with perfect bodies if that were true?"
Retired Canadian WWE superstar Trish Stratus has long been celebrated for her both her athleticism and sex appeal, something she believes goes hand in hand.
"I think when you look at someone who's fit and strong, they're also perceived as mentally strong," Stratus explains. "It takes a lot of work to have that kind of body, and if a person doesn't have it, they want it."
Stratus, who has shifted her workout focus to yoga and recently opened A Toronto-area studio called Stratusphere, says finding a workout you love is the key to sticking with it, getting off the couch, and staying in shape.
"The neat thing about fitness and wellness is that it's the one thing you can watch on TV and say, 'Oh, I can do that too,' and it's true -- this is one thing you can actually achieve," says the buffed beauty, who also stars in the sport and adventure-based TV show, also called Stratusphere, premiering on the Travel & Escape network in September.
"You just have to start with a tiny goal," she advises. "One week say, 'I am going to go without Coke,' and soon you realize that a) it is achievable and b) it's not as hard as we think. It's a matter of taking charge of your life."
While it's true we can't all be Olympic hopefuls in the making, we can get inspiration from watching those who are.
Whether it's getting dirty playing beach volleyball, sweaty over tennis, or mastering the perfect pitch, getting in the game will have us feeling and looking better and holding our proud heads a little higher too. And really, what could be sexier than that?